Kate asked me to join the group and share with you my thoughts on life and writing – both of which I’ve done quite a lot of – writing and living that is! Several poetry books, 20 screenplays, two novels and that’s just the ones I’ve finished. That about covers the writing part—now on to the living part, 70 plus years to date, and I hope there’s a lot more of that to come.
Besides writing screenplays and books with my writing partner Wash Phillips, I work daily on Belva’s List.com, a recreation resource website of things to do in and around Seattle and Western Washington, that my wife, Belva, and I started a couple of years ago. And in my spare time I do workshops on how to write screenplays and I do one-on-one mentoring of screenwriters. A while back, when I was still in my 60s, someone asked me when I was going to retire. I said, “Retire? For Christ’s Sake! Who has time to retire!?”
I started out writing poetry and short stories, mostly for my own enjoyment. I got interested in the performance poetry scene in Seattle in the early 90’s and ended up starting a Poetry slam in Seattle’s Pioneer District at the Central Saloon—Slammin’ in the Square. I stuck with that for over a year, during which time I published poetry chap books for all my friends and took a class in Screenwriting at the University of Washington, where I discovered my true calling, the thing I should have been doing all along, the thing I was born to do—writing screenplays.
Thinking back on my life, writing for the screen was my destiny—I mean that literally. I was nearly born in a movie theater—for real! You see, my mother’s water broke in the movie theater; while my father and she were watching the movie, “Knute Rockne All American” (1940)—still one of my all time favorite flicks. I guess my dad askedn my mom if she could hold on until the movie was over—you had to know my father.
My early introduction to the movies didn’t stop with the Knute Rockne All American movie, thanks to my grandmother—with whom I spent a great deal of time with in my early years as my folks shared a duplex with my grandparents. Now, my grandma was a Nazarene lady, and even though she and I went to church every Sunday, she wouldn’t join the church because she refused to be a hypocrite. You see, the Nazarene church didn’t condone the wearing of lipstick nor going to the movies. And Grandma liked to wear lipstick and she dearly loved the movies.
The town we lived in had three theaters, the Liberty, the Granada, and the Roxy and they changed their features on different days; which made it possible to go to the movies six nights a week, plus a matinee on Saturday. Back then a movie ticket cost twenty-five cents for adults and ten cents for kids. My grandfather didn’t like the movies, so I lucked out and got to be Grandma’s movie date. We saw a movie every night of the week except Sunday, plus I went to the Saturday matinee through most of the 1940s. I grew up with Tracy and Gable, Garbo and Harlow, the three stooges, Abbot and Costello, all the Disney movies, Ma & Pa Kettle, and a whole slew of cowboys. I saw musicals, and war movies, Tarzan and Flash Gordon. I was there to see the emergence of Technicolor from black and white. It was a total emersion. Why I waited until I was in my 50s to start writing screenplays, I can’t say. I’m just glad I finally got around to it. Now I’m trying to figure out how to sell them. But that’s another story for another time. Maybe we can discuss it over a nice single malt scotch and I’ll share some more of my life with you.